1) Eliminate group punishments; 2) Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria; 3) Comply with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006) regarding an end to long term solitary confinement; 4) Provide adequate food; 5) Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates.
The CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation prides itself on Pelican Bay being "the end of the line," and is part of a continuation since the 1960s of prisons using solitary confinement as a main tactic to crush rebellion and resistance.
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity states, "As anti-authoritarians and anarchists, this is a crucial moment to show our solidarity with those on the inside who are ready to die in their fight for dignity and the most basic necessities of life that the state continues to deny. This will be the third major hunger strike in a US prison in the past year and those of us fighting on the outside need to make a visible show of support for this wave of prisoner-led organizing."
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
Vowing to die, if necessary, inmates at the dreaded “SHU” section of California’s Pelican Bay prison begin a hunger strike on July 1. “Like the strike by inmates in Georgia’s prison system late last year, the Pelican Bay protest cuts across racial lines.” The core issue: a brutal, soul-killing policy of solitary confinement and other deprivations aimed at turning every inmate into a snitch on everyone else.
Pelican Bay: Hunger Strike in Super-Max
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
“Inmate organizers say prisoners have been subjected to solitary and a whole range of deprivations for ten, twenty, even forty years.”
On Friday, July 1st, between 50 and 100 men at the Security Housing Unit of California’s infamous Pelican Bay prison go on hunger strike to protest cruel and unusual punishment. It is a punishment inflicted, primarily, on their minds. At the heart of the protest is solitary confinement, the barbaric torture that deprives prisoners of contact with fellow human beings, condemning them to a kind of “social death” – some for decades.
This is the “dark side” of the American repressive arsenal that Vice President Dick Cheney was so happy to unleash as a weapon in the so-called War on Terror: the stripping down of captive people through methodical deprivation of everything that makes them human. Yet these excruciating mind-destruction techniques are routinely deployed on the domestic front, in the American prison gulag, at places like Pelican Bay.
Inmate organizers say prisoners have been subjected to solitary and a whole range of deprivations for ten, twenty, even forty years. They are most incensed at the policy euphemistically called “debriefing,” in which inmates are pressured to confess to every crime they have ever committed in life. They are then expected to inform on other prisoners, their crimes, conversations and gang affiliations. This information – whether true or false – is then used to throw fellow inmates into the special Hell of solitary confinement. It is a brutal, sadistic cycle of degradation, a bizarre world in which everyone is compelled to “snitch” on everyone else. Prisoners are routinely given indeterminate solitary on the mere word of an informer. The worst section of the SHU is called the “short corridor,” where 200 men languish in the deepest isolation. These are the men at the center of the hunger strike.
“It is a brutal, sadistic cycle of degradation, a bizarre world in which everyone is compelled to ‘snitch’ on everyone else.”
One of them is named Mutope Duguma, formerly known as James Crawford. The “call” for the hunger strike was put out under Duguma's signature. It asks that “all prisoners throughout the State of California who have been suffering injustices in General Population, Administrative Segregation and solitary confinement…join in our peaceful strike to put a stop to the blatant violations of prisoners’ civil/human rights.” Like the strike by inmates in Georgia’s prison system late last year, the Pelican Bay protest cuts across racial lines, involving, in the prisoners’ words, “united New Afrikans, Whites, Northern and Southern Mexicans, and others.” The organizers warn inmates to “beware of agitators, provocateurs, and obstructionists” among the prisoner population.
The Pelican Bay hunger strikers vow to die, if necessary, in a struggle against dehumanization. In the San Francisco Bay area, supporters from the outside have formed Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity (prisonerhungerstrikesolidarit
From the inside, inmate Gabriel Huerta reminds us that “Using indeterminate total lock down to extract confessions is torture by international standards as is the use of prolonged solitary confinement.” This is a global, human rights issue.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.
DEMONSTRATE ON 1ST DAY OF PELICAN BAY HUNGER STRIKE
Friday, July 1, 11:00 am -- California State Building
Van Ness and McAllister, San Francisco
Prisoners in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison (California) have called for an indefinite hunger strike as of July 1, 2011 to protest the cruel and inhumane conditions of their imprisonment. The hunger strike was organized by prisoners in an unusual show of racial unity. The prisoners developed five core demands.
California Prison Focus supports these prisoners and their very reasonable demands, and calls on Governor Jerry Brown, CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate, and Pelican Bay State Prison Warden Greg Lewis to implement these changes. California Prison Focus has also joined "Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity," a coalition of grassroots human rights activist groups in the Bay Area supporting the demands of the prisoners participating in the hunger strike.
Briefly the five core demands of the prisoners are:
1. Eliminate group punishments. Instead, practice individual accountability. When an individual prisoner breaks a rule, the prison often punishes a whole group of prisoners of the same race. This policy has been applied to keep prisoners in the SHU indefinitely and to make conditions increasingly harsh.
2. Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria. Prisoners are accused of being active or inactive participants of prison gangs using false or highly dubious evidence, and are then sent to longterm isolation (SHU). They can escape these tortuous conditions only if they "debrief," that is, provide information on gang activity. Debriefing produces false information (wrongly landing other prisoners in SHU, in an endless cycle) and can endanger the lives of debriefing prisoners and their families.
3. Comply with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006) regarding an end to longterm solitary confinement. This bipartisan commission specifically recommended to "make segregation a last resort" and "end conditions of isolation." Yet as of May 18, 2011, California kept 3,259 prisoners in SHUs and hundreds more in Administrative Segregation waiting for a SHU cell to open up. Some prisoners have been kept in isolation for more than thirty years.
4. Provide adequate food. Prisoners report unsanitary conditions and small quantities of food that do not conform to prison regulations. There is no accountability or independent quality control of meals.
5. Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates. The hunger strikers are pressing for opportunities “to engage in self-help treatment, education, religious and other productive activities..." Currently these opportunities are routinely denied, even if the prisoners want to pay for correspondence courses themselves. Examples of privileges the prisoners want are: one phone call per week, and permission to have sweatsuits and watch caps. (Often warm clothing is denied, though the cells and exercise cage can be bitterly cold.) All of the privileges mentioned in the demands are already allowed at other SuperMax prisons (in the federal prison system and other states).
Prison inmates will always complain that they don't get enough food. However most facilities closely moniter how many calories they're serving each meal. As for the other complaints I'm sure the inmates feel that they have merit.
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